Our roundup of the latest news from metro Detroit and Michigan businesses as well as announcements from government agencies, including updates about the COVID-19 pandemic. To share a business or nonprofit story, please send us a message.
Motown Museum Hosts Meet and Greet with Duke Fakir of The Four Tops
Motown legend Duke Fakir, an original member of The Four Tops, will be signing copies of his new memoir, “I’ll Be There: My Life with the Four Tops,” from 4-7 p.m. at the Motown Museum Greektown Store (580 Monroe St.) on May 6.
The book features revealing anecdotes from the group’s formation, the members’ early days as backup singers for the likes of Jackie Wilson, and their years working with Berry Gordy at the legendary Motown Records.
Ford Sales Down in April Overall but EVs and SUVs Show Growth
April sales for Ford Motor Co. in Dearborn were down 10.5 percent (176,965) compared to year-ago figures, but SUV and electric vehicle deliveries showed growth, major growth for the EV segment.
Sales of Ford electric vehicles increased 139 percent over last year on the strength of Mustang Mach-E and E-Transit sales, while the first shipments of all models of the all-new F-150 Lightning are underway. E-Transit sales increased 62.3 percent over March, while Mustang Mach-E had its best monthly sales performance since it was launched, with sales up 95.0 percent over last year.
Ford brand SUVs achieved a new April monthly sales record at 92,809 units. Bronco and Bronco family (including Bronco Sport) hit their best sales results since launch and Ford’s newest vehicles continue to conquest at the high rate of 70 percent, according to the automaker.
“While industry semiconductor chip shortages persist, improved inventory flow in April delivered a significant share gain of 1 percentage point over a year ago with Ford outperforming the industry,” says Andrew Frick, vice president of sales, distribution, and trucks for Ford. “Inventory flow bolstered stronger F-Series, Mustang Mach-E, E-Transit, and record April Ford brand SUV sales. We are now shipping all models of the electric F-150 Lightning.”
Ford says it increased its U.S. market share 1 percentage point on improved April dealer inventory flow and that its April sales outperformed the industry with total share of 13.8 percent, while filling retail orders at record rates representing 50 percent of April’s retail sales.
New vehicles continue to gain momentum for Ford. Bronco, Bronco Sport, Mustang Mach-E, and Maverick were up 17.9 percent relative to March, reporting their best monthly sales yet with 39,383 vehicles sold.
Dakkota Integrated Systems Opens New Plant in Detroit
Dakkota Integrated Systems has opened its new plant on the site of the former Detroit Kettering High School on the city’s east side.
Built from the ground-up, the facility employs more than 400 workers in newly created jobs, building instrument panels for Jeep vehicles assembled at Stellantis’ Detroit Assembly Complex – Mack and Jefferson plants in Detroit.
The Kettering Plant employs 500 workers, 400 of which are newly created, and plans on growing its workforce by another 75 with continued priority given to residents of the plant’s zip code and four neighboring Detroit zip codes. All employees are eligible for company pre-paid college tuition, books, and continuing education programs. About 90 percent of the plant’s current workforce identifies as a member of a minority group. More than 40 percent of the plant’s employees are women.
Dakkota, one of the largest Native American, women-owned companies in the country, manages supply chain complexity for customers through the assembly and just-in-time delivery of complex modules and components.
“We are proud to have stepped forward to create a new landmark that reflects the best of Detroit, the state of Michigan, and the auto industry,” says Andra Rush, founder, chair, and CEO of Dakkota. “In an underserved community, we are providing career opportunities for a diverse group of Detroiters while providing high-quality components and complex suspension, cockpit, and overhead systems for some of the best-selling vehicles in America.”
City of Detroit Announce $500K in Motor City Match Grants to 12 Businesses
The Detroit Economic Growth Corp. and Mayor Mike Duggan on Wednesday announced the 19th round of awards to aspiring entrepreneurs through the Motor City Match program.
Motor City Match Awardees from Round 19 represent a wide range of businesses. Since 2020, the program has refocused its operations to meet the changing needs of businesses in a post-pandemic environment. This includes a focus on loan readiness, an emphasis on getting new businesses transactional as quickly as possible, and shortening the application and evaluation timeline.
The Motor City Match Round 19 cash awardees are:
- What’s the Dill ($25,000), deli sandwiches stuffed inside a dill pickle in the University District.
- Bar Pigalle ($35,000), French cuisine-inspired restaurant in Brush Park.
- Elda’s ($35,000), Latin American cuisine in Hubbard Farms.
- Soul on Ice ($35,000), new restaurant in the Midwest neighborhood.
- What’s Crakin’ Seafood ($35,000), seafood restaurant on Livernois in the Bagley neighborhood.
- Equity Alliance Management ($40,000), community kitchen and grocery in the Midwest neighborhood.
- Kornr Market ($45,000), neighborhood market that also will offer community events in NW Goldberg.
- Sugah Please Coffee House ($45,000), coffee shop, breakfast, and brunch spot in Midtown.
- Young Faith Childcare Center ($45,000), childcare center in Evergreen-Outer Drive neighborhood.
- Conner Creek Urgent Care ($50,000), urgent care facility in Conner Creek Neighborhood.
- The Lab Drawer ($50,000), STEAM technology subscription kits and experiences in Dexter-Linwood.
- Cure Nailhouse ($60,000), nail salon and training facility in Midtown.
“Motor City Match has helped to create a new generation of successful entrepreneurs in our city and there is no shortage of creativity or opportunity,” says Mayor Mike Duggan. “Our Round 19 grant winners will be bringing a new range of goods and services to 10 different neighborhoods across the city.”
NEI Anchor Business Grants Served as Lifeline to Southwest Detroit Small Businesses
The Southwest Detroit Business Association (SDBA) announced details regarding its four NEI Anchor Business Grant Program recipients: El Artesano Juice & Café Bar, Estetica Unisex Latina, Mangonadas del Barrio, and The Shop Screenprinting.
The program, funded by the New Economy Initiative (NEI), was created to provide financial support and practical assistance to strengthen key anchor businesses in Detroit while also helping to economically and socially lift surrounding neighborhoods. In 2021, NEI developed the grant program to assist 25 anchor businesses across six Detroit communities.
“For most participating businesses, the New Economy Initiative Anchor Business Grants were initially a lifeline during the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Alicia Ramon and interim president of SDBA. “The businesses used the grant dollars to keep their doors open and pay bills such as water and electric. Once they stabilized their individual operations, the owners identified other areas of need that included adding new services to increase revenue. We are very grateful to the New Economy Initiative for helping to keep these businesses on the path toward success.”
As part of the SDBA program, each business received $25,000 in business support and $6,250 in additional funds for technical assistance services. Initially, for many of the businesses, the grants were used for COVID-19 relief and recovery efforts and to help meet real-time business needs. In addition, the funds were used by business owners to purchase equipment, implement infrastructure improvements, and make marketing and technology upgrades to business operations.
For more information about SDBA programs and services, visit www.southwestdetroit.com.
Nova Development Group Breaks Ground for Apartments for Low-income Disabled Detroiters
Nova Development Group of Detroit Wednesday broke ground on 14 new affordable housing units at Mack and Alter roads on the city’s east side. Mayor Mike Duggan participated in the festivities.
These apartments will be geared toward low-income disabled Detroiters, ensuring access to affordable, quality housing within the city limits. To qualify for one of these units, applicants must have a physical or mental disability under Detroit Housing Commission (DHC) supportive service guidelines.
All 14 units offer affordable rates at 50 percent to 60 percent area median income (AMI), but no resident of the Mack Alter Homes will pay more than 30 percent of their income for rent and utilities thanks to project-based vouchers through DHC, which will pay the difference. Construction is expected to take about 14 months and is scheduled to be completed in July 2023. The affordability is guaranteed for 30 years.
Funding for the $5.4 million ground-up project includes $1.8 million in federal HOME funds and $179,000 in Community Development Block Grant funding through the Detroit Housing and Revitalization Department. The city also is providing a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) program, which allows the developer to pay a 10 percent fee on the total rent collected each year, rather than the regular property tax rate. The land for the project, located at 3141 Alter in the Riverbend neighborhood, was bought from the Detroit Land Bank Authority.
“This project is an example of this administration’s commitment to building a Detroit for everyone,” Duggan says. “It will not only provide an affordable and beautiful place to call home, but also represents an investment in the far east side as we continue to build back our neighborhoods.”
Centigrade Agency in Sterling Heights Acquired by Chicago Firm
Sterling Heights-based integrated marketing agency Centigrade has been acquired by rEvolution, the independent, global sports marketing agency headquartered in Chicago. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
The acquisition bolsters rEvolution’s current roster of global clients, joining others in the automotive, motorsports, and lifestyle categories including Continental Tire, General Tire Polaris, and Lucas Oil. Specializing in marketing communications, public relations, experiential activation, and motorsports, Centigrade boasts Lamborghini, Lotus, Bugatti, Alfa Romeo, RECARO Automotive, Charge Enterprises, and Hagerty Drivers Foundation among its client portfolio.
“Since our founding in 2010, Centigrade has continued to grow in the marketing and public relations sectors,” says Nick Matthews, chairman of Centigrade. “Joining the rEvolution team will expand our collective capabilities and client offerings exponentially. We look forward to a successful future as one rEvolution.”
The acquisition brings a new metro Detroit location to rEvolution and the organization’s fourth office, joining the Chicago headquarters and offices in Indianapolis and London. In addition to leadership roles for Matthews and President Julie Barnard, all current Centigrade staff will join rEvolution in their client relations, experiential, marketing, and communications roles. The Centigrade business will operate under the rEvolution brand effective with the close of the transaction.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan’s Safety Net Grant Program Accepting Applications
Health care clinics across the state are invited to apply for grants through Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan’s Strengthening the Safety Net program.
Eligible clinics can apply for grants through June 3. Final award amounts will be based on the number of applications received, the scope of applications submitted, and the amount of funding available. All materials must be submitted via the online application form. Any questions can be directed to [email protected].
Since 2005, Blue Cross has invested more than $17 million in safety net grants to increase access to affordable health care and improve health equity. Each year, these grants have helped nearly 50 clinics across Michigan provide free or low-cost care for uninsured and underinsured residents.
The program offers grants to community-based and volunteer clinics providing medical, dental, and mental health, vision, and pharmaceutical assistance to those who are vulnerable across Michigan. Emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic, this program encourages patients to return for routine care and urges clinics to strengthen relationships with local public health departments.
“Connecting Michigan’s most vulnerable populations to quality, affordable health care and improving health equity are central to the Strengthening the Safety Net program,” says Ken Hayward, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan vice president and special assistant to the president for community relations. “Our grantees play a critical role in serving as a safe and equitable source of health care for their communities. Blue Cross reaffirms our historic commitment to improving the health of all Michiganders and further widening Michigan’s safety net of health care providers.”
Inventors Club Partnership with Patent Lawyers Assists DPS Students with Inventions
A group of fifth- through eighth-grade students from Detroit Public Schools Community District have been engaged in an after-school program designed to foster interest in science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM).
The students from Brewer Academy, a K-8 school in northeast Detroit, have been participating in the Inventors Club after-school program, an educational partnership teaming the district and a group of patent attorneys from the Howard & Howard law firm in Royal Oak.
The Inventors Club, now in its second year at Brewer Academy, involves the participation of 40 students, seven patent attorneys, and multiple classroom teachers. The c began in mid-September and will continue to meet weekly until its conclusion in mid-May.
According to Dan Chojnowski, chair of Howard & Howard’s Intellectual Property Practice and classroom leader of the Inventors Club, the Brewer students were organized into small groups and guided by their teachers and the attorneys through the specialized Invention Convention Curriculum. Developed by The Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation in Dearborn, this entrepreneurial learning program tasks students with identifying a problem, creating a solution, evaluating it, and then presenting it to a panel of judges.
Through their participation with Inventors Club, the Brewer students were introduced to a world of learning where they identify problems, solve them, and gain confidence in themselves by developing an original invention in a hands-on, real-world, project-based educational program.
Brewer Academy Student-Inventors Compete, Advance at Regional and State-Level Invention Competitions
“All of us at Brewer were so proud to send 12 different inventions to the regional hub competition at Wayne State University and then thrilled to see three of our eighth graders advance to the Invention Convention Michigan at the Henry Ford Museum,” says Deborah Carr, a science teacher at Brewer Academy and co-leader of the Inventors Club initiative. “The level of involvement and commitment from the Howard & Howard volunteers was instrumental in allowing us to take this project to a successful completion.”
Michael Solt, a partner at Howard & Howard, mentored and guided a group of students who invented a solar-powered case for a smart device and advanced to the state level Invention Convention. Solt explains that the idea started out as a simple one – combining solar panels and a case for a smart device.
“The wonderful thing about this competition is that it forces the students to critically examine the invention throughout the prototype building phase,” Solt says. “In this case, the students were challenged by previously unapparent problems with the case and solar panels and had to rethink and completely reconfigure the cell phone case. The kids came up with a novel solution for the problem, which wasn’t even a consideration at the beginning of the project.”
Paul Engel, another Howard & Howard patent attorney and Inventors Club volunteer-coach, says one of the groups he worked with created a winter coat that incorporated thermochromic fabrics, which change colors according to the temperature. He said the students’ working on the coat had been stumped by a problem in balancing the amount of heat required to change the fabric’s color without overheating the coat’s wearer.
“I was astonished when the group came back the next time we met and suggested that we investigate heating elements used in automobile seats as a possible solution,” Engel says. “It amazed me that the group had been brainstorming on their own time and the kids were so engaged that they were contemplating improvements and modifications to their invention outside of school on their own.”
Globe Midwest Adjusters International Helps Restore Fisher Building after Flooding
Last June, massive flooding rocked the city of Detroit and nearby communities causing major damage to thousands of homes and businesses that are still recovering. One of the most prominent Detroit landmarks to be affected by that “100-year” rain event was the historic Fisher Building.
The flooding resulted in a 10-day power outage at the Fisher Building. There was about five feet of water in the basement, and the entire electrical system and elevators were impacted.
“I remember putting on boots and traipsing around the basement,” says Peter Cummings, chairman and CEO of The Platform, a real estate development company dedicated to helping rebuild the city of Detroit. “And it was a mess. I had never seen anything quite like that. Basically, everything on those lower levels of the Fisher Building had to be rebuilt.”
Cummings says his heart sank as soon as he saw the extent of the damage. As the son-in-law of Max Fisher, the Fisher Building is a significant part of his and his family’s lives and history.
“My late father-in-law owned the building in the 1970s and, until his death in 2005, we maintained a family office on the 27th floor,” Cummings says. “I bought the building in 2015 with a few partners. It’s an important asset in terms of the historical involvement of our family. It’s not just any building. With its architecture and visibility, it’s probably Detroit’s most iconic building.”
That’s why the long-time developer brought in Southfield’s Globe Midwest Adjusters International who he had previously worked with on another property damage claim.
For example, after the flood, the elevators in the Fisher Building continued to be operational but the Globe Midwest team found that, because the cabling was exposed to humidity for an extended amount of time, the life expectancy of those parts had been shortened.
“It’s the obligation of the insurance carrier to enable us to return the system to the condition it was in before the flood,” Cummings recalls. “Globe Midwest really peeled back the onion to find out the entirety of the damage and what we were owed.”
Globe Midwest Adjusters Chairman and President Bobby Levin says the Fisher Building claim was unique because of the intricacy of the electrical system — with some equipment up to 90 years old — and the structure of the building with small rooms and tunnels making it difficult to access. Since the Fisher Building was constructed in the 1920s, there were a lot of historical aspects the team also had to take into consideration.
“We came across a lot of potentially antique building elements that needed to be identified for their historical value,” Levin says. “One example were door knobs and hardware we found to be antiques. We have to take things on a case-by-case basis because, for some buildings, a doorknob is just a doorknob. But that wasn’t the case at the Fisher Building. So, we brought in the right consultants, and we were able to demonstrate to the insurance company just how much the doorknobs were worth.”
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Detroit Grand Prix to Honor History on Belle Isle with On-site, Online Engagement
For the 22nd and final Grand Prix weekend on Belle Isle before its return to downtown Detroit next year, the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear will recognize the history and heritage of the event’s island home leading up to and during the June 3-5 race weekend.
On Wednesday, Grand Prix officials shared plans for several ways that fans and followers can celebrate the tradition and memorable moments of the races at Belle Isle Park, the venue that has served as the home of the Detroit Grand Prix since 1992. The initiatives unveiled Wednesday include a new public art installation across Detroit communities, powered by longtime racing partner PPG.
The Grand Prix will honor the tradition of the event’s history on the island and provide a preview for the future of the event in a special “Legacy” display area during the upcoming Detroit Grand Prix. Located on the pathway from the Chevrolet pedestrian bridge over the racetrack to the paddock where the competitors prepare their cars all weekend, the Grand Prix Legacy display will highlight the signature moments in the history of the event on Belle Isle.
Through classic photography and historic video highlights, visitors to the Legacy display will take a tour through four decades of world-class racing on Belle Isle. The display also will pay tribute to the partnerships that have helped the Grand Prix make a positive impact on the island, including the more than $13.5 million in improvements and infrastructure enhancements at Belle Isle Park.
The collection of Official Grand Prix posters since 1992 will be on display as well to reflect on the event’s island heritage. Fans will be able to relive some of the most memorable moments from the Grand Prix on Belle Isle through a complimentary digital photo service featuring green screen technology that will allow visitors to turn back the clock and be part of the historic action while sharing the creative images on social media.
Showcasing the vision for the future of the Grand Prix, the Legacy display also will highlight the return to its original home on the Streets of the downtown Detroit in 2023. Providing a glimpse at the future of the event and the buzz and excitement created by racing on the streets of the Motor City and along the Detroit Riverfront, the display will look ahead to the next chapter of the Grand Prix’s legacy.
“We are proud of all the great memories the Grand Prix has created on Belle Isle and the positive impact the event continues to make on the island,” says Michael Montri, president of the race. “We are excited to share the celebration of the Grand Prix’s history on Belle Isle with our fans and also look ahead to the next era of the Grand Prix in 2023 and into the future, to build on its legacy in Detroit.”
In the weeks leading into race weekend, fans will be able to share their special memories online. The event’s official website, DetroitGP.com, has added a special section to encourage fans to post their favorite moments from Detroit Grand Prix history on Belle Isle. Whether it’s recalling an amazing move on track, an opportunity to meet one of their racing heroes or simply a great afternoon spent with the family watching the action on Belle Isle, fans can share their memories, and include photos of their top moments, on social media using the hashtag #belleislememories. The evolving collection of memories will be featured now and throughout race weekend here.
The Grand Prix is continuing its outreach into the neighborhoods and communities with a new public art and culture program, powered by PPG. The program will feature 10 48-inch-high scale model cars designed to replicate the current NTT IindyCar cars mounted for permanent display in local neighborhoods. Nine of the cars will be placed strategically in the seven districts throughout the city of Detroit. The Grand Prix will work with city officials to have Detroit-area students and local artists decorate each of the model INDYCARs, utilizing PPG paints and coatings to showcase the creativity and vibrant designs of the artistic talent within our local communities.
Tickets for the 2022 Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear can be purchased online or through the ticket hotline at 866-464-7749.
Detroit Nonprofit to Present the Nation’s Largest Exhibition of Art Works by LGBTQ+ Artists
Mighty Real/Queer Detroit (MR/QD), in partnership with the City of Detroit Office of Arts, Culture, and Entrepreneurship, will host the nation’s largest exhibition of works by LGBTQ+ Detroit artists to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Detroit Pride June 2-30.
The Ford Foundation is the presenting sponsor of the month-long art exhibition, celebration, and event series that represents a historical deep dive into the diversity of the LGBTQ+ community and its longtime allies. The exhibitions will feature both emerging and established queer art, as well as never-before-seen works by artists whose careers were shortened by HIV/AIDS.
Taking place simultaneously across 17 galleries, the exhibition and public programming, are curated to connect with queer and non-queer audiences, creating public space and attention to queer art and life, from 1945 to present. Importantly, the emergence of queer art as a studied aspect of ‘American’ art has been a relatively new phenomena— and only recently celebrated. And, this year it is especially poignant in Detroit, as it plans to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first Detroit Pride march, conducted downtown in 1972.
Beyond the exhibition, MR/QD will host an online gallery and publish a future catalog with essays by noted writers and historians that will document the exhibited artwork. Moreover, mediums of queer talent and expression will fill the month of June, with multiple artist talks, panel discussions, poetry readings, youth art showcase, and live performances by an additional 40+ artists.
This grassroots event is being curated and organized by dozens of volunteers, who collectively have devoted thousands of hours. It will culminate into what MR/QD hopes to be the inaugural kickoff for a future biannual event and as a continuation and preservation of the largest showcase of queer art in the United States.
For more information and details about the scheduled events, follow Mighty Real/Queer Detroit on Instagram @mightyrealqueerdetroit and Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/MRQD2022.
High School Seniors Awarded Scholarships Through Rhonda Walker Foundation Program
The Rhonda Walker Foundation will award a group of Detroit-area high school seniors with $43,000 in scholarships at the 16th Annual Power Scholarship and Volunteer Recognition Breakfast at 8:30 a.m. at the Westin Hotel in Southfield on May 7.
The event includes a celebration of participant’s completion of the Rhonda Walker Foundation (RWF) Girls into Women Program.
The RWF’s program is a five-year program that includes college prep, personal development, career development, health and wellness, community outreach, cultural awareness, and mentoring.
The scholarship recipients are from Detroit-area high schools including Renaissance, Detroit School of the Arts, Birmingham Seaholm, Birmingham Groves, and Cass Technical.
“We are so excited to celebrate our 16th graduating class and to bring our RWF family together for this special time in our program year,” says Rhonda Walker, RWF president, founder, and morning anchor for WDIV-Local 4 News. “These remarkable young women have completed our five-year Girls into Women Program and are all attending college in the fall. We are proud to recognize their hard work and to invest in their future success.”
The Rhonda Walker Foundation Scholarship Fund is solely funded by donations from supporters. Every senior who has successfully completed the RWF five-year, award winning Girls into Women Program is eligible for a scholarship to assist with college expenses.